External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Monday flagged off 10 broad gauge diesel locomotives to Bangladesh Railways under its “neighbourhood first” policy.
The 10 diesel locomotives were handed over from the Gede station of Sealdah Division of Indian Railways to Darshana station of Bangladesh Railways.
The event was also attended by Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen and Railway Minister Mohammed Nurul Islam Sujon via video conferencing.
The Railway Ministry said in a statement, “The handing over of these locomotives, under grant assistance from the Indian government, fulfills an important commitment made during the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India in October, 2019.”
It said that in keeping with the requirements of Bangladesh Railways, the locomotives have been suitably modified by the Indian side. The locomotives will help handle the increasing volume of passenger and freight train operations in Bangladesh.
After flagging off the locomotives virtually from Delhi, External Affairs Minister Jaishankar said, “I am delighted to join this ceremony of handing over 10 locomotives to Bangladesh. I am glad to know that parcel and container trains have been started between both countries. This will open up new opportunities for our businesses.”
The minister said he was happy to note that movement of a trade by rail has been ensured. “During the Covid-19 pandemic, the supply of essentials, particularly in the holy month of Ramadan, was ensured,” Jaishankar said.
He further highlighted the depth of the time tested India-Bangladesh ties based on mutual trust and respect. He also expressed his happiness over the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic didn’t slow down the pace of bilateral cooperation and conveyed that he looked forward to more such milestones in the ongoing historic ‘Mujib Barsho’, the centennial birth anniversary of the founding leader of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Railway Minister Goyal said, “These locomotives will be useful in handling the on-going freight train operations between India and Bangladesh.”
Goyal said that to ensure the usability of these locomotives in Bangladesh, they have been modified. “We have taken huge strides forward in our respective efforts in achieving development and growth,” he said.
The Railway Minister also said that India and Bangladesh have come a long way in the last few years. “Our bilateral relationship today is at its very best. Our neighbourhood policy follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of ‘sabka sath, sabka vikas’,” he said.
The minister said the leadership of both India and Bangladesh were committed to reviving the pre-1965 railway connectivity between the two countries.
“Out of the seven rail links that existed then, four are functional now,” Goyal said, adding that to further strengthen rail connectivity in the region, one new rail link, between Agartala in India and Akhaura in Bangladesh, is being constructed.
The Railway Minister also said that during the Covid-19 pandemic, the railways of both countries have shown exemplary foresight in managing the crisis and maintaining the supply chain by stepping up transportation of essential commodities.
“Parcel train and container train services have been introduced via Benapole in Bangladesh. Both these services started in July. These have enabled us to move a wide range of products from both sides,” he said.
“The railways have ensured that the two countries can continue bilateral trade without any disruption and health risk. Both the railways are ensuring a better future for the people,” Goyal said.
Talking about the economy, he said that the Indian economy is coming back on track under Modi’s inspirational leadership. “I am sure Bangladesh will also continue to make rapid strides under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. We share the common vision of developing connectivity and infrastructure,” he said.
Goyal also assured Bangladesh of India’s complete, unstinted and unlimited support in the development of Bangladesh’s rail network. “I commit, on behalf of Modiji and the people of India, that we will always accord the highest priority to Bangladesh and its needs. We will be a showcase of regional cooperation to meet the aspirations of the people of both the nations,” Goyal added.
According to the Railway Ministry, in recent times, both the countries have stepped up their rail cooperation in mitigating the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, as trade via land border faced disruptions.
The ministry said that rail as a cost-effective and environmental- friendly solution has helped in transporting essential commodities across the border.
“Both sides saw the highest ever exchange of freight trains in the month of June. A total of 103 freight trains were utilised for carrying essential commodities and raw materials,” the Railway Ministry said.